This week, inspired by a discussion with co-workers, I've been trying to understand why some software agencies are more successful than others.

This is basically the question to which the field of strategic management tries to find an answer: Why do you see differences when you measure individual company profitability within a given industry? Why do competitive advantages exist, and how do companies achieve those competitive advantages?

Strategic management as a research field got started in the 1950s. After 60 years, it's still looking for the answer for the same questions. It still hasn't been able to produce a reliable handbook for the business founders and CEOs of the world.

This is no wonder. When you assume that there is a handbook to follow, you assume that the world is predictable. You assume that you don't learn through discovery but through building models.

The other problem is the fact that unique competitive advantages are not unique if they can be achieved by everyone else. Competitive advantages that can be articulated and attained with modest resources will eventually become industry standards. Industry standards are the bare minimum for your business--not the thing that will make it stand out.

How does your company solve a strategic challenge? Does it enter into discovery? Or does it start assuming? Do your co-workers and managers say they aren't learning fast enough? Or do they say they don't have enough data available?